Starting with the History
Thinking about it…to come to a new country and carve out a living. Not much in the way of jobs and money. There were a lot of tanners, they used the hides to trade for other things they needed or wanted. Several of the earliest became very wealthy.
In 1750’s half dressed deer skins averaged 2 to 2.5 lbs and sold for 40 cents a pound, roughly a dollar per hide. It was not uncommon for a buffalo hide to sell for 10 livres (franks). Winter elk , bear and buffalo hides were not sought after, as they were considered too bulky to deal with. But there was value in the buffalo meat and tallow. In 1761 some was sold at Fort Pitt for 3.00/lbs.
” Buffalo Hide Scale ? “
I have seen this scale all over the internet for sale as a “buffalo hide scale.” Yet I have found no evidence of it being used as such. I even reached out to several antique dealers who offered them for sale. None had any literature as to buffalo hide use, the farm /ranch scale, yes. But buffalo hides,……if it was, it was not widely used for buffalo hides during the most historic slaughter years, would be my guess. From everything I have read, I would say in the earlier times, before the great slaughter. When a few hunters would have traded at Post or with the Natives. Were buffalo hides sold by the pound, yes. For all the millions of hides sold, we are more likely to read about the unit price, any where from 50 cents to a few dollars each. But as stated above (1750’s ish) They probably were sold , when they were sold, by the pound, as it seems most hides/pelts were. The article also states that elk, bear and buffalo hides, were not sought after, because of their bulk. The hides were used then, just not traded as a huge commodity. In the early 1880’s it was published that buffalo bull hides were sold to tanners in the United States and Canada at 5 1/2 to 8 1/2 cents per pound. I will continue digging for proof of this scale being used for buffalo hides. Hard to believe that so many call it a buffalo hide scale, if it was really never was.
I reached out to Canada, about this matter, as they have the records from the Hudson Bay Co. This was their response:
The Hudson’s Bay Company Archives (HBCA) gov.mb.ca
The main pricing unit that I can see in our records for the trade/sale of buffalo hides is ‘robes’ (dressed buffalo skins), or sometimes in ‘skins’ (raw, undressed hides). These can be either ‘whole’ or ‘split’, which seems to refer to the overall size and shape of the hide, rather than weight per se. Robes or skins would be traded at the posts, then they would be baled and sent on to larger centres, where they would be auctioned, again in units of ‘robes.’ The best concentration of records I have found about buffalo robes in HBC is in B.134/z/3 (miscellaneous records of the Montreal Department), as Montreal is where many of the robes were shipped from other districts for sale in Canada, or shipment to the US or Europe. They also show up in a number of auction catalogues in London (A.54). I have been unable to find any evidence of the use of ‘hide scales,’ although they may well have been used and not documented. It appears that the entire bale might be weighed at its destination (rather than individual robes) – p.100 of The Hunting of the Buffalo by E. Douglas Branch (1929) mentions the weight of a certain bale being lighter and more expensive than a previous one – but it wouldn’t have factored into the pricing in my understanding.∼
This is a hide yard, Dodge City, off to the right is a scale used for weighing hides before they were shipped to the east (US) to be tanned. (Texas Beyond History)
(Photo Credit; J. Peaco, Courtesy of Legends of America )
In reading “A history of the New York Swamp” ‘It seemed as though everyone was a tanner.’ (extract)
The North American fur trade began as early as the 1500s and was a central part of the early history of contact between Europeans and the native peoples of what is now the United States and Canada.
The number of tanneries in the U.S. steadily declined, from over 5,000 in 1860 to fewer than 2,000 in 1890, as the industry was increasingly concentrated in fewer hands. The consolidation of smaller firms into larger conglomerates, to reduce the cost of production, was typical of the late 19th century American business. In the tanning industry, consolidation was a symptom of crisis. It was labor intensive work. Labor cost being high, the price of hides, the raw material of tanning, rose. In 1850, Adirondack tanneries paid an average of 2.20 per hide. By 1870, the average price had nearly doubled. In 1870 tanners began experimenting in the chemical process and eventually perfected the process of soaking them in a lime solution. (The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History, 1750–1920)
(FYI, this was a great book, could not stop reading it.)
The art of tanning was introduced in New York coeval with its settlement. The rotund Dutchmen who were under the rule of Peter Minuit and his successors wore a garb of leather, and the artizans added a leather apron ! These were made from deerskins. The agile animals that furnished these skins could be killed near the site of the present swamp. In the possession of the Beekman family are antlers of deer which William Beekman, their ancestor, shot in Beekman street and its vicinity, about 1688.
In 1664 New York, or — as it had been previously named — New Amsterdam, came into the possession of the English. Some tanners from London came here. They introduced the apprentice system. Seven years was the term of service for a boy of the age of fourteen years, at which they were indentured. The early tanners made their leather into shoes, and the trades were not separated until about the time of the Revolution.
In 1669 the first patent known here was granted to Adriasen and Christopher Van Lear for a ”mill to grind or rasp the rind of ])ark of oaks to be used in tanning.” The tanning properties of the hemlock tree were then unknown. Outside of New York there was a tannery owned by the Hulst familv at Greenwood, Brooklyn. All the rest of these establishments, with their contiguous shoe shops, were located near the present corner of Broad and Beaver streets. Conrent Ten Eyck was the first tanner. He located near that corner in 1653. Tanners were ordered outside of the city wall (Wall street) at the time of the English occupation and were located near Maiden Lane.
A relic of the old Dutch tanners has come down to the present day. It is the coat of arms of John Harpending, who owned most of “Shoemakers’ Pasture,” a name given to sixteen acres of land running north from Maiden Lane, between Gold and Nassau streets, to the Park. He gave the money and land with which to build the church at the corner of Fulton and William streets, and his coat of arms, consisting of an old fashioned graining plate and beam, surmounted by a currier’s knife, used by tanners, hung over the pulpit until it was demolished in 1875.
Five tanners in 1680 bought and occupied Shoemakers’ Pasture. Eventually it came into the possession of John Harpending, one of the original purchasers. In 1696 he cut it up into 164 house lots, and from the proceeds of their sale he became a very rich man. It is now the center of the mercantile section of New York, but it was a wild, rough tract when the tanners bought it.
After this tract was sold the tanners settled around the “Collect,” or lake, on Centre street, where now stands the “Tombs” prison. It was famous as the pond where Robert Fulton conducted his experiments. He propelled upon its surface, by steam, a small boat, before he sailed the Clermont up the North River.
Only upper leather was tanned here in those early days, and it was thought necessary for the hides to lay in the vats for a year. All sole leather was imported from London. As late as 1768 Governor Moore wrote to the “Lords of Trade” in London : “The tanning of leather has been carried on here (in New York) for many years. Leather is greatly inferior, in quality, to that made in Europe, and the tanners have not yet arrived at the perfection of making sole leather.”
The capacity of early tanneries was 1,000 to 2,000 hides a year, or their equivalent in deer skins, which were plentiful. The slaughter hides used were bought from the butchers. The tan vats were oblong boxes and no tannery had the luxury of a roof. The beam house was a shed open at the sides and fronting lime vats and pools. In a circular trough made of hewed timber, bark was ground or crushed by stone rollers propelled by a horse. The mill ground two “floorings” of bark, or about half a cord a day. Some calfskins were tanned. Only rich gentlemen wore shoes made of so fine a material as calfskins.
The tanners did not remain very long at the Collect pond. About 1790 they began to cluster around the swamp. James Brooks and Jacob Lorillard, who had formerly tanned in Centre and in Magazine streets, appear in the directory of 1800 as located in Jacob street. George Washington once lived on the border of the Swamp. In 1798, having taken the oath of office as first President of the United States on the spot where his statue now stands in Wall street, he took up his official residence in the large mansion at No. 3 Cherry street, near Frankfort street. There was Republican simplicity in this parade. “That George Washington,” said an excited foreigner. “Why, where is his guard?” “Here,” said the citizen addressed, tapping his breast significantly; “Every American is his guard.”
In the evening the “Republican Court” was held in Cherry street. Mrs. Washington, surrounded by the first ladies of the land, received. The ladies dressed in white satin and silks shot with silver thread. The men wore silk small clothes (knicker-bockers), silk stockings and pumps. Their coats were faced with yellow silk or buckskin. Military men wore uniforms, boots and swords. These receptions were select, elegant and courtly.
Visitors to the Executive Mansion had to pass the Swamp, for it was the northernmost boundary
of the city. All beyond was pasture, or at best, farms and forest. To most of them the view of tanneries, with the vats laid down in parallel rows was an unwonted sight. Not so to all. General Anthony Wayne was familiar with the pungent odor of bark, for the “hero of Stony Point” was a tanner in Pennsylvania. General William Sutton, of Salem, Mass., owned a tannery which was owned by the Sutton family up to about 1870, and Colonel Oliver Spencer and Colonel Matthias Ogden, of Newark, N. J., were tanners and brave officers in the Revolution. Alexander H. Read was a general in the Army and served on Washington’s staff. He was a tanner at Wardsboro, Vt., and brought up five sons to the trade.
Colonel John Mansfield, a Lynn shoemaker, commanded the Lynn and Salem Regiment at Bunker Hill. Roger Sherman, of Connecticut, shoemaker, and Francis Lewis, of New York, hide dealer, represented these trades in the first Continental Congress. They were among the signers of the Immortal Declaration. These men, no doubt, visited their beloved General, and later, perhaps, partook of the hospitality of their fellow craftsmen in Frankfort street.
The old tanners who did business in the Swamp previous to 1800 sold their product to dealers on
the west side, who in turn supplied the shoe makers who were their only customers. Tanners’ methods were primitive. Leather was taken out when half tanned, rubbed over a beam with a stick, and then skived down to the required thickness, and the skivings thrown away or run into the creek that emptied into the East River. Splitting leather was then unknown. Sole leather was finished by rolling a smooth grindstone over it.
On Jacob street, extending through to Gold street, was the tannery of Daniel Tooker, He died in 1806, aged 83 years. Michael Ortley had a tannery on the corner of Gold and Frankfort streets.
In the City Directory of 181 1 is this list of tanners in New York :
Arcularius, P. J., 11 Frankfort, house same.
Anthony, John P., 68 Frankfort, house Clifif.
Bonnett, Peter, Jacob and Frankfort, house 22
Bloodgood, Abm., 62 Frankfort, house 52.
Brooks, Henry, 518 Pearl.
Bryson, David, 48 Frankfort.
Bryden, Wm., Bowery corner Canal.
Cunningham & McCorniick, 55 Ferry.
Corse, Israel, 14 Jacob, house 7 Vandewater.
McCartee, Peter, 12 Jacob.
Cunningham, R., 21 James.
McCormick, Hugh, 35 Ferry, house 102 Gold.
Ferguson & Shipley, Jacob corner Frankfort.
Ferguson, G., 52 Frankfort.
Hall, John, 7 Jacob.
Lee, Gideon, 23 I’Y’rry, house J^) Frankfort.
Lowber, M., 64 and 66 Frankfort.
Lorillard, Jacob, 16 Ferry, house 18 Ferry.
Lindsay, G., morocco, 52 Ferry.
Polhemus, A., 7 Jacob, house 3 Jacob.
Sherwood & McVickers, 13 Jacob.
Shaw, John, morocco, 15 Ferry.
Tooker, Daniel, 11 Jacob.
Weber, J., 78 Gold.
John P. Anthony, a tanner, was a prominent “Bucktail” and was elected an Alderman from 1819 to 1827. The name of “Bucktail” was applied to the Republican or Jeffersonian party during this time.
Mr. Anthony was elected by the Jackson Democrats as Alderman in 1827.
Richard Cunningham first appeared in the Directory for 1799 as a tanner and currier at No. 47 Ferry street. He took as partner Hugh McCormick, and the firm of Cunningham & McCormick was for many years well known in the Swamp.
HIDE AND LEATHER MERCHANTS
The early members of the trade were merchants on a small scale. They bought and sold, and did a good deal of dickering business. They had close relations with oak leather tanners in Baltimore and Philadelphia. The sailing packets brought the leather here. There was very little, except this oak sole, known. There were tanneries in Massachusetts where hemlock bark was used and sole
leather made. It was mostly sold and used there. The first hemlock sole leather tannery in New York State located at Hunter, was considered to be of sufficient importance to be mentioned in the earliest United States census, that of 1810. Its capacity was 5,000 hides a year.
A change was gradually being forced on the leather trade of New York, and, indeed, the whole country. There was a line being drawn between the manufacturer and the jobber. This line was later thoroughly established. There was no more pretense of buying and selling “hides, leather and oil,” but it was buying hides and selling the leather. The merchants we are about to tell of were the ones who inaugurated this trade, but they were a quarter of a century in accomplishing it.
The principal interest of Frankfort street, in connection with the Swamp, lies in the fact that all the first tanneries were constructed in it and contiguous and curries pursued their avocation and resided over their shops in this thoroughfare.
Frankfort street was laid out in 1725 as far as Vandewater, and cut through to Pearl street in 1800. It was the northernmost boundary of the Swamp. There were fine dwellings in the street a hundred and more years ago, and rich merchants lived there. A leading citizen was Francis Lewis, a hide and fur merchant, to whom reference has already been made, came from Wales in 1735 and had his house and store at the corner of Frankfort and William streets. In gathering furs and buckskins he was accustomed to travel in the interior ot New York State and was at Oswego when it surrendered to General Montcalm. The Indians murdered every prisoner then taken except Francis Lewis. It was said that the Welsh language in which he addressed them was so nearly like their own that they thought they recognized in him a fellow countryman. There is a legend that a Prince of Wales, Madoc by name, came to America several hundred years ago and settled a colony here. Southey wrote a poem on this foundation. The historical facts are that Madoc, a son of Owen Gwynette, King of Wales, sailed in 1160 to the West with a shipload of adventurers, and after several weeks
“Like a cloud, the distant land arose Gray from the ocean, where we left the ship,
And cleft with rapid oars the shallow waves And stood triumphant on another world.”
Madoc returned to Wales, took more emigrants, sailed again and was never heard from.
Francis Lewis survived the massacre of Oswego, came back, traded extensively, and in 1775 retired from business, rich. In April of that year he was elected to the Continental Congress at Philadelphia and his name appears among the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Daniel Tooker and Daniel Tooker, Jr., were opulent tanners about the year 1800, whose land extended for some distance on Frankfort street.
This short thoroughfore, laid out in 1740, is only one block in length and has always been devoted to tanning. Tanneries and stores were here when the street was widened to its present width in 1789-The store, No. 2 Jacob street, was built by John H. Bowie about 1852. Long before that time Anthony Boyer had a kid leather factory on the premises. He had left France during the “Reign of Terror” and was the first person to make fancy colored leather in New York.
Between No. 9 and the corner of Frankfort street there stood a block of three-story yellow brick buildings. They were built by Charles P. Miller, a tanner, in 1829. John McDermott, now of McDermott & Howard, commenced business there in 1844. The Journeymen Morocco Company, of which he was president, occupied two of the buildings. Here Thomas Smull commenced business about 1833. Richard C. McCormick, ex-Governor and Senator from Arizona, was born in one of these houses. His father and grandfather were tanners. Moses Ely, an uncle of Ambrose K. Ely, conducted a tannery on this spot, now occupied by a one-story building used for the storage of hides, and owned by A. K. Ely. The store next to the corner of Frankfort street was built by Gurdon B. Horton and used by him for some years as a leather store. Tan vats and a tanned hide were found in making the excavation.
1816 April 2, The Evening Post 24 bales of buffalo skins for sale.
Oct 1 The Pittsburgh Gazette 500 Buffalo Robes just received & for sale Bosler & Co.
1819 Dec 6 1000 Buffalo Robes for sale George Astor
Dec 13 400 Buffalo Robes for sale Halsey & Ebbets
1821 Dec 17 The Evening Post 2500 Buffalo Robes for sale Dilworth & Voorhees (ad ran Oct Nov & Dec)
1823 & 1824 Pittsburgh Advertiser Buffalo Robes for sale Robert Lindell & Co.
1824 The Evening Post, Public Auction 10,000 Buffalo Robes, The American Fur Co.
1827 The Evening Post 327 Buffalo Hides and a Few Horns for sale by N.L.& G Griswold
The Evening Post 9500 Buffalo Hides for sale at Auction at the store of Joseph Howard, Salem Massachusetts
The Evening Post Buffalo Robes by the bale or single skin, for sale by Munn
1844 This may have been the peak year for the Hudson’s Bay Company as 75,000 bison robes were traded to posts in Canada. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudson’s_Bay_Company
1870 An estimated two million bison were killed this year on the southern plains. Germany had developed a process to tan bison hides into fine leather.
The greatest slaughter took place along the railroads. One firm in St. Louis traded 250,000 hides this year. Demand for bison skins escalated as a Pennsylvania tannery began commercially tanning bison hides. With this newly discovered tanning process, bison were now hunted year round.
The Fur Trade of America
For many years the American Buffalo, properly bison, furnished the chief supply of warm, serviceable and durable sleigh robes, but greedy tongue and hide hunters, and reckless slaughters who claimed to be sportsmen, unitedly destroying the animal at the rate of nearly half a million a year, wantonly wasted a valuable asset of the country, and practically exterminated one of the most interesting animals and all creation, and which was first seen in the wild state by white men about the middle of the 16th century.
During the winter of 1844 – 1845 the large open section of country known as the Laramie Plains, a favorite winter resort of the Buffalo, was visited by a severe snowstorm which continued until the entire district was buried in snow to a depth of about four feet; during the storm thousands of buffaloes were trampled to death in their mad struggle to escape, and many more died of starvation; a large number, however, survive, but only to later encounter a destroyer more cruel than nature. The Buffalo has not been seen on the Laramie Plains since that fatal winter.
Prior to 1850 vast herds of Buffalo frequented the plains of Texas, and all of the great tracts of level land east of the Rocky Mountains to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, but all, except a few in captivity, have passed over the border into happier eating grounds of the race. For several consecutive years, beginning 1850, a collection of from one hundred and forty to one hundred and fifty thousand buffalo hides was marketed at St. Louis alone, and other large lots were shipped direct to New York and Chicago; in 1859 the collection centering at all places approximated two hundred thousand hides; in 1877 about two hundred thousand buffalo were killed for their hides in the single State of Texas; the following year the supply from all sources reached a total of only one hundred and twenty thousand hides of all sizes, and in subsequent seasons, down to 1883, the collection averaged one hundred thousand hides per annum; from that state, which was the last great year, the decline in quantity was very pronounced, and before 1890 the last small collection had been garnered, and, except a little heard in Yellowstone Park, the American bison had ceased to exist as a wild animal.
The last lot of Buffalo hides received at New York, about eight hundred, was purchased by a slave robe manufacturer at eight dollars each, and after making them up into robes – a single hide finished natural or lined with felt constituted a robe – sold them at first at fifteen dollars, later at twenty-five, fifty and sixty- five dollars each, and the last pair at one hundred and twenty-five dollars each. In the early history of the trade Buffalo hides, according to size and condition, were worth from one to three dollars each in the raw. In the trade Buffalo hides were classed as “Indian-handled,” or dressed, or “white man dressed,” the former for many years rating has the better hides. Indians clause of several tribes, particularly the Crows, were efficient dressers of Buffalo hides, the work being done by them with the brains of the animal and certain juices known, in this connection, only to themselves; the leather of hides dressed in this way was white, clean and soft. Some of the Indian-handled hides were smoked; these were also pliable, but dingy on the leather side. Hides of the Buffalo, mountain sheep, deer and elk dressed by Indians always retain their soft finish; and when wet, or even soaked in water, do not dry out hard or harsh. Many of the Indian-handled hides were ornamented on the leather side with crude outline sketches in red and yellow pigments; these highly colored pictures, also the work of the squaws, represented some event in life of individual braves, or the history of the tribe.
Some of the light-leathered hides were used in making men’s coats for service in the colder sections of the West and Northwest; owing to the low cost these coats were also popular with car drivers and truck men as far east as Boston.
During the period of abundant buffalo life from twenty to thirty thousand hides were secured each year in Canada, mainly through the Hudson Bay Company.
Misc. Pictures (click for viewing)
American Fur Company :The American Fur Company was founded in 1808, by John Jacob Astor, a German immigrant to the United States. Under his leadership, the company grew to monopolize the fur trade in the United States by 1830, and became one of the largest and wealthiest businesses in the country. Astor’s company was able to capitalize on the young nation’s anti-British sentiments to take over many formerly British fur-trapping regions and trade routes. It expanded very rapidly and successfully. Demand for furs in Europe began to decline during the early 19th century, leading to the stagnation of the fur trade by the mid-19th century. Astor left his company in 1830, the company declared bankruptcy in 1842, and the American Fur Company ultimately ceased trading in 1847.
After Custer: Loss and transformation in Sioux Country
(Thank you University of Oklahoma Press Author: Paul L. Hedren)
The northern buffalo herd was always somewhat smaller. At the onset of the Great Sioux War, some 2 million buffalo dotted the Powder River country, the Little Missouri badlands, the Big Open between Yellowstone and Missouri rivers, and a bevy of smaller scattered ranges across Sioux country. Greater and lesser fur trading outfits including the powerful American Fur Co. had preyed on the northern herd for decades. The tribes functioned as willing purveyors of well tanned buffalo robes, delivering tens of thousands annually to Missouri River outpost like Fort Benton, Union, and Pierre. The demands of trade and tribal subsistence had a noticeable impact on the herd. Recognizing this, farsighted traders call for the government to ban the robe trade outright as early as 1858. Such pleas went unheeded.
Columbia Fur Company 1822 SD, Fort Tecumseh built at site of Fort Pierre by Columbia Fur Company.1828 American Fur Company absorbs Columbia Fur Company and becomes dominant in Dakota trade.
Hudson’s Bay Company: Hudson’s Bay Company officials in an express canoe crossing a lake, 1825
The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC; French: Compagnie de la Baie d’Hudson), commonly referred to as “The Bay” (“La Baie” in French), is a Canadian retail business group. A fur trading business for much of its existence, today Hudson’s Bay Company owns and operates retail stores throughout Canada, Germany, Belgium and the United States with Galeria Kaufhof,Gilt, Hudson’s Bay, Home Outfitters, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH. HBC’s head office is in the Simpson Tower in Toronto, Ontario. The company is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “HBC”.
The company was incorporated by English royal charter in 1670 as The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay and functioned as the de facto government in parts of North America before European states and later the United States laid claim to some of those territories. It was at one time the largest landowner in the world, with the area of the Hudson Bay watershed, known as Rupert’s Land, having 15% of North American acreage. From its long-time headquarters at York Factory on Hudson Bay, the company controlled the fur trade throughout much of the English and later British controlled North America for several centuries. Undertaking early exploration, its traders and trappers forged early relationships with many groups of aboriginal peoples. Its network of trading posts formed the nucleus for later official authority in many areas of Western Canada and the United States. In the late 19th century, with its signing of the Deed of Surrender, its vast territory became the largest portion of the newly formed Dominion of Canada, in which the company was the largest private landowner.
By the mid-19th century, the company evolved into a mercantile business selling everything from furs to fine homeware. They “quickly introduced a new type of client to the HBC – one that shopped for pleasure and not with skins”; the retail era had begun as the HBC began establishing stores across the country. In July 2008 HBC was acquired by NRDC Equity Partners, who also owns U.S. luxury department store Lord & Taylor.] From 2008 to 2012, the HBC was run through a holding company of NRDC,Hudson’s Bay Trading Company, which was dissolved on 23 January 2012. Since 2012, the HBC directly oversees its Canadian subsidiaries Hudson’s Bay (formerly The Bay) and Home Outfitters, in addition the operations of Lord & Taylor in the United States.
On 29 July 2013, the HBC announced its takeover of Saks, Inc., operator of upmarket American department store operator Saks Fifth Avenue. The merger was completed on 3 November 2013. In September 2015, HBC acquired German department store chain Galeria Kaufhof and its Belgian subsidiary from Metro Group for $3.2 billion U.S. dollars.
In May 2016, HBC announced that it would expand to the Netherlands by taking over up to 20 former Vroom & Dreesmann sites by 2017. V&D was a historic Dutch department store chain that went bankrupt and shut down in early 2016. HBC said the expansion would cost CAD $340 million and create 2,500 jobs in the stores and another 2,500 temporary construction jobs. The Dutch stores would operate under the “Hudson’s Bay” and “Saks Off Fifth” brands.
Missouri Fur Company 1822 Fort Recovery built upon American Island at Chamberlain by Missouri Fur Company. (It is possible this post was built ten years earlier to compensate loss of Loisel post, and was headquarters of Manuel Lisa during War of 1812-1815.)
North West Company
The North West Company was a fur trading business headquartered in Montreal from 1779 to 1821. It competed with increasing success against the Hudson’s Bay Company in what is present-day Western Canada. With great wealth at stake, tensions between the companies increased to the point where several minor armed skirmishes broke out, and the two companies were forced to merge.
In 1987, the northern trading posts of the Hudson’s Bay Company were sold to an employee consortium that revived the name The North West Company in 1990.
Pacific Fur Company: The Pacific Fur Company (PFC) was an American fur trade venture wholly owned and funded by John Jacob Astor that functioned from 1810 to 1813. It was based in the Oregon Country, a region of the Pacific Northwest contested between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the Spanish Empire, the United States of America and the Russian Empire.
Astor planned for several companies planned to function across the Great Lakes, the Great Plains and the Oregon Country to gain control of the North American fur trade. Comparatively inexpensive manufactured goods were to be shipped to commercial stations for trade with various Indigenous nations for fur pelts. The sizable number of furs collected would then be brought to the port of Guangzhou, as pelts were in high demand in the Qing Empire. Chinese products would in turn be purchased for resale throughout Europe and the United States. A beneficial agreement with the Russian-American Company was also planned through the regular supply of provisions for posts in Russian America. This was planned in part to prevent the rival Montreal based North West Company (NWC) to gain a presence along the Pacific Coast, a prospect neither Russian colonial authorities or Astor favored.
Management, clerks and fur trappers were sent both by land and by sea to the Pacific Coast in the Autumn of 1810. The base of operations was constructed at the mouth of the Columbia River in 1811, Fort Astoria (present-day Astoria, Oregon). The destruction of the company vessel the Tonquin later that year off the shore of Vancouver Island took with it the majority of the annual trading goods. Commercial competition with the NWC began soon after the foundation of Fort Astoria. The Canadian competitors maintained several stations in the interior, primarily Spokane House, Kootanae House and Saleesh House. Fort Okanogan was also opened in 1811, the first of several PFC posts created to counter these locations. The Overland Expedition faced military hostilities from several Indigenous cultures and later had an acute provision crisis leading to starvation. Despite losing men crossing the Great Plains and later at the Snake River, they arrived in groups throughout January and February 1812 at Fort Astoria.
The lack of military protection during the War of 1812 forced the sale of PFC assets to the NWC. While the transactions were not finalized until 1814, due to the distance from Fort Astoria to Montreal and New York City, the company was functionally defunct by 1813. A party of Astorians returning overland to St. Louis in 1813 made the important discovery of the South Pass through the Rocky Mountains. This geographic feature would later be used by hundreds of thousands of settlers traveling over the Oregon, California, and Mormon routes, collectively called the Westward Expansion Trails. The emporium envisioned by Astor was a failure for a number of reasons, including the loss of two supply ships, the material difficulties of crossing the North American continent and competition from the North West Company. Historian Arthur S. Morton concluded that “The misfortunes which befell the Pacific Fur Company were great, but such as might be expected at the initiation of an enterprise in a distant land whose difficulties and whose problems lay beyond the experience of the traders.”
Rocky Mountain Fur Company:
The Rocky Mountain Fur Company, originally known as Ashley’s Hundred, was organized in St. Louis, Missouri in 1822 by William Henry Ashley and Andrew Henry. Among the original employees were Jim Bridger, Hugh Glass, and Jedediah Smith; Smith went on to take a leading role in the company’s operations.
The company became a pioneer in western exploration, most notably in the Green River Valley. The operations of other aspiring organizations like the American Fur Company would often overlap, causing a fierce rivalry. Growing competition motivated the trappers to explore and head deeper into the wilderness. This led to greater knowledge of the topography and to great reductions in the beaver populations.
Eventually the intense competition for fewer and fewer beavers and the transient style of fur hats brought the Rocky Mountain Fur Company down. Nearly a decade after its founding, the stock holders sold all their shares, leaving behind a legacy in terms of both western settlement and folklore. The US government, seeking geographic knowledge or travel advice regarding the West, would seek out former members of the company as consultants. Ashley himself later became a congressman whose expertise was Western affairs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocky_Mountain_Fur_Company
Maurice M Schult
After his return from the sea, he became a tanner, and engaged extensively in that business up to the time of his death. He operated a tannery at Sparrow Bush, N. Y., from 1860 to 1866, and during these years accumulated a goodly fortune. At the time he disposed of his tannery at that place, he proposed to retire from active life, but after a pleasure trip to Europe of a year’s duration, he was again persuaded to embark in the tanning enterprise, this time at Wilcox, Elk county. From the summer of 1877, up to the time of his death, he was at the head of the firm doing business under the name of the Wilcox Tanning Company. Mr. Schultz had exclusive charge of the landed and manufacturing interests of this company, and by his energy, fidelity and perseverance, he commanded not only the implicit confidence of the other members of this firm, but also the admiration and respect of the community in which he lived. He was kind hearted and generous, and never turned a deaf ear to the appeals of the less fortunate in life. His wife, Mary A. (Atherton) Schultz, still survives him, also two sons and one daughter: Norman (residing in New York City), Irving (residing in Wilcox, Penn.) and Mrs. Edward Barnes (of Orange, N. J.). The Wilcox Tannery is now conducted by his two sons, Mr. Irving Schultz being the resident member, and having the general supervision of the same.
It was 1864 when Theodore Palen and other investors from New York State purchased 10 acres of land from Alonzo Wilcox along the West Branch of the Clarion River. Intending to expand the family’s tanning and leather business, Palen also secured the rights to hemlock bark on another 1500 acres in Jones Township. About 1866 Mr. Jackson Schultz had convinced his brother Maurice M. Schultz to partner and later purchased the Palen family interests in Jones Township.
The Schultz family already had other tannery interests throughout the area and wanted to expand their operations. The site in Wilcox, with the new railroad having just been constructed, offered them the opportunity to expand their business endeavors. In 1867 Maurice M. Schultz came to Wilcox to manage the Wilcox Tanning Company along the West Branch of the Clarion River and the new railroad.
The tannery is said to have, at its peak, employed up to 300 men and additional 400 men to peel bark from the hemlock. As part of the tanning process hemlock bark was required in great quantities. The bark contains valuable chemicals, such as tannin, used to tan the hides. The lumber companies in the region would provide the 25,000 cords of hemlock bark that the tannery required to process the nearly 333,000 buffalo and cow hides processed at the facility annually. The plant had 13 boilers powered by gas wells located at the site. 732 vats, seven (7) feet wide, nine (9) feet long and five and a half (5 1/2) feet deep were encompassed within the facility, making it the largest leather tanning facility in the world.
The Wilcox Tannery in 1897. Note the very large rows of hemlock bark in the lower center of the picture.
The Winnipeg Tribune
Winnipeg Manitoba Canada Nov 9 1931
CANADA’S FUR PRODUCTION
Though the bison is gone forever and the beaver and the marten are slowly following, the fur trade of Canada is showing no signs of decline,” says the New York Times.
From a Times Square eyrie no doubt it does appear that the bison is gone forever, but in Canada, the bison is very much alive and is increasing so rapidly that his old enemy, man, is having trouble finding room for the increasing herds.
The pelt of the bison, as every Winnipegger knows, was divinely ordained to protect policemen from January blasts, and these garments are not heirlooms. If the bison were gone forever, our guardians will have different bunny-wraps, but the fact is that Canada, unlike her neighbor to the south, started in to conserve some of her wild-life resources before it was too late.
Bison are not the only animals to benefit by the enlightenment which substitutes adaptation for extermination, and it Is possible that before long a way will be found to save the beaver.
Out of Canada’s twelve-million-dollar raw fur output last year, pelts from fur farms accounted for 19 percent as against 12 1 him/2 percent in the previous fur season. A few years ago all the species of animals now being bred on our fur farms were “wild,” and they were on the road to extinction. Today the silver fox, which used to eat its young if kept in captivity, is almost a domestic animal.
Slowly, but, unmistakably, by selective breeding and physical adjustment, the “wild” strain is disappearing. Man is becoming a protector and friend, and the fox, while still a long way from the calm assurance of the household kitten, is losing his nervousness.
Canada pioneered in the art of fur tanning and is leading the way, step by step. No man can predict to what proportions this new industry will grow, but it has plenty of room to grow in Canada.
The Paddle Wheel image is taken from the book Hides & Skins